Training teachers on the importance of valuing and handling student diversity: A design-based research perspective.

The team of Maastricht University presented their preliminary finding regarding the evaluation of the trainings on differentiated instruction twice. First at the Onderwijs Research Dagen (ORD) conference in Amsterdam on the 6th of July and the second time at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Glasgow, Scotland on the 26th of August.

Presenting authors:

  • Boukje Compen, PhD – Maastricht University (AMEE & ORD)
  • Cindy Hulsman – Maastricht University (AMEE)
  • Isabelle Maussen – Maastricht University (ORD)

Contributing authors:

  • Daniëlle Verstegen – Associate Professor – SHE – Maastricht University
  • Diana Dolmans – Full Professor – SHE – Maastricht University


Student populations in vocational programmes are increasingly diverse, for example in terms of competencies and interests. Teachers should be aware of the varying needs of students and be able to respond to these needs adequately (Tomlinson et al., 2003). Since many teachers consider this a challenge, we developed, implemented, and evaluated a training on this topic. The main design principles related to using authentic problems representative for teachers’ daily practice as a basis, and stimulating teachers to reflect collaboratively on their experiences. Research question: “How do teachers perceive that a training designed around authentic problems and group reflection enhances awareness about student diversity?”

Summary of Work 

This study used a design based research approach, which allows examining how an intervention with specific characteristics is effective in a certain context (Dolmans & Tigelaar, 2012). Together with teachers from the target group and educationalists, we developed videos* in which teachers discussed how they respond to student diversity in their teaching. Teachers watched the videos in the training and were stimulated to reflect in small groups on how they could value diversity and respond to students’ varying needs. The trainings were evaluated using a short open-ended questionnaire and focus group interviews with a selection of teachers.

Summary of Results 

Preliminary results indicate that teachers valued the high level of interaction throughout the training and that they could identify themselves with the video content. Teachers’ awareness on the importance of responding adequately to differences among students was raised. Additionally, the teachers reported that they learned from the collaborative sharing of strategies on dealing with diversity. Have a look at our slides for more information about our preliminary results. 

Discussion and Conclusion

Teachers appreciated the integration of authentic and reflective learning in the training. Although the training provided them with new insights on dealing with student diversity, a longitudinal coaching trajectory appears beneficial to transfer these to their own practices (Steinert et al., 2016).

Next steps

At the moment we are working on a scientific article where we analysed the focus group interviews. 


* You can watch these videos on our e-learnings platform. To access these you need to create and account and/or login.



  • Dolmans, D. H., & Tigelaar, D. (2012). Building bridges between theory and practice in medical education using a design-based research approach: AMEE Guide No. 60. Medical teacher, 34(1), 1-10. 
  • Inspectie van het Onderwijs. (2021). Themaonderzoek differentiëren in MBO. Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap.
  • Steinert, Y., Mann, K., Anderson, B., Barnett, B. M., Centeno, A., Naismith, L., … & Dolmans, D. (2016). A systematic review of faculty development initiatives designed to enhance teaching effectiveness: A 10-year update: BEME Guide No. 40. Medical teacher38(8), 769-786.
  • Tomlinson, C. A., Brighton, C., Hertberg, H., Callahan, C. M., Moon, T. R., Brimijoin, K., Conover, L. A., & Reynolds, T. (2003). Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: A review of literature. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 27(2/3), 119-145.

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